PGN: So where are you from?
KA: I was born in upstate New York, Utica. Most of my life I’ve been a nonprofit junkie — involved in many causes, served on many boards, donated to many organizations and have been doing fundraising for as long as I remember. I was that kid who would sell you a candy bar one week and the following week I’d be hawking raffle tickets.
PGN: Tell me about growing up in Utica.
KA: It was a great place that had a lot going for it. A lot of the things accessible there helped make me the person I am today. We had several great museums on the Erie Canal, Ft. Rickey Children’s Discovery Zoo, an amusement park, which had rides and games, and they all contributed to my sense of fun and love of history and animals. Rome is nearby, which is where they had the last Woodstock, the crazy one that set everything afire. I was there in the middle of the flames until it was time to evacuate.
PGN: Family fun fact?
KA: My stepbrother Kevin does the Internet and website for “Mitt Romney for President.” We’ve taken different paths!
PGN: Can we pay him to print a few exposés?
KA: [Laughs.] I don’t think he’d go for that.
PGN: What were you like as a kid?
KA: I’d do anything and everything, kind of like now. I hate to be bored. You know when it was 8 o’clock on a Sunday and all your friends had to go in to get ready for school? I’d stay out and find something to do, even if it was by myself. I did a lot in school, from editing the school newspaper to being the president of the spirit pep club. I was voted most spirited and most likely to succeed and a few other things. One thing most people don’t know about me was that I was a magician as a kid. I wasn’t very good, but I was good at the PR, so I’d put on my own sold-out shows. One show I used smoke bombs. It would have been a smart idea to test them beforehand, but I didn’t and the only thing I made disappear was the audience.
PGN: Where did you go to college?
KA: I went to Mohawk Valley Community College. Most people don’t know that I started as an art major. On occasion, when people are visiting my house, they’ll notice the artwork but not know that it’s mine until they see the signature. I transferred to Utica College of Syracuse and changed my major from art to public relations with a minor in political science. I traded the use of one side of the brain for the other.
PGN: When did you come out?
KA: When I was 19, I started my own nonprofit with my best friend. We were both somewhat still in the closet and we decided to bring the AIDS quilt to Utica. I don’t think she realized how big my vision was for this. I was determined to bring the whole quilt to our town. It was a really big to-do. I got us a floor of the United Way building to use as an office. We got 6,000 people to attend with 1,000 volunteers, which was amazing considering the time period and people’s resistance to anything having to do with AIDS. It was such a sensitive subject: There were bomb threats and signs were slashed, parents throwing themselves on the quilts in grief, other parents in denial lashing out at partners who tried to attach sentimental items. It was crazy and we were just teenagers. But it was a huge success and we raised $100,000. It was one of the largest displays of the quilt in New York.
PGN: And the coming out?
KA: Oh, yes! Well, my grandparents helped raise me; they were a big part of my life. My grandmother was a very religious woman, in church every Sunday. I used to get in the paper a lot. I was a part of the Young Democrats, I helped coordinate the Bill Clinton campaign in our area, I was involved in environmental groups, etc. So, with the quilt project, we were getting coverage in the news and papers every day. In the middle of it, my very conservative Catholic grandmother wrote a letter to the editor congratulating us as two young gay and lesbian people making a difference! Neither of us were out yet! I guess there was no fooling grandma.
PGN: That’s great.
KA:Yes, she and my other grandmother, who was homebound, came out to read the names on the first day. It was pretty special. We got 1,000 school kids to come and got one of the Republican representatives to unfold the quilt just as all the church bells were coordinated to ring in honor of the dead. That was major. We also had a candlelight processional that night and a big drag show that was our biggest fundraiser, and my father did all the promo shots and even remembered to use the right pronouns. Leading up to the event, we had the Gay Men’s Chorus perform, which was unheard of, and my grandmother had her hair done and came to that too! My whole family was supportive. It was a life-changing experience for people and a lot of people credited us with sort of bringing upstate New York out of the closet. It was good for me too, as I went from there into local politics. I went to Albany and interned for Deborah Glick, who was the first openly LGBT member of the New York state legislature. I got to help with LGBT issues like filing for same-sex marriage, which we did each year. My grandfather was also very involved with politics at the time so I was carrying on the family tradition. I became a committee person even though I was bumped off the ballot for being gay. I waged an aggressive write-in campaign and won. I even thought about running for mayor one day, but my boyfriend at the time got a job in Philly and we moved here.
PGN: What was your impression of Philly?
KA: When I first came here, I walked from the Parkway to Giovanni’s Room. I swore it took me about 12 hours and I thought, Wow, this city is too big. Now I realize that it’s only about a 10-minute walk. And moving to South Philly was crazy: I’d never seen awnings before or wires across the street. I thought, who would live like this? But now I really appreciate the neighborhoods and their different flavors. The city you see as a visitor is nice, but when you live here, you realize how great it is. There are so many hidden gems and customs and traditions.
PGN: Any nicknames?
KA: Funny you should ask: They call me the King of Philadelphia Cupcakes and Desserts. I have a food blog and I post about a lot of food things.
PGN: And what did you do when you moved here?
KA: I started working at the Epilepsy Foundation. It was a great experience with some wonderful people. Then I was the executive director of the Children’s Health Care foundation in New Jersey and raised money for multiple hospitals. Golf tournaments, bowl-athons, etc. After they closed up shop, I worked at the Senior Center for years, which is where a lot of people know me from. It was the best job of my life. I figured I’d be working with some old people doing some fundraising; turns out it was so much more. I helped them build a volunteer program that went from 200 people to 1,100, and did the campaign that shut down Broad Street so we could refurbish the air conditioning. Every day was my favorite day there. I got to help people do everything from fixing a watch to major fundraising. It was like the best parts of being a politician. And now I have my own PR firm, Aversa PR, and clients that range from Ms. Goody Cupcake to Philadelphia School of Circus Arts to City Year Greater Philadelphia and East Passyunk Avenue. We just did a fundraiser for City Year that raised $1.1 million and I was the event coordinator. I’m also the owner of Phillylovesfun.com, a website for fun food, fun adventure, fun people.
PGN: School of Circus Arts: Are you taking any classes?
KA: Yes, I can now juggle somewhat and I’ve taken unicycling, rope — my favorite — some trapeze and a little tightwire. It sets the tone for my life now, doing things that scare me but are exciting. My biggest accomplishment for them was that I was in charge of the campaign for PIFA and some of their gay initiatives like bringing them to Outfest and, of course, getting [PGN publisher] Mark Segal and PGN editor Sarah Blazucki on the trapeze.
PGN: You also do a lot of nonprofit work.
KA: Yes, I chair Big Game Event benefiting ActionAIDS and GPFFL [Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League] and am a former board member of DVLF [Delaware Valley Legacy Fund] and Safeguards. I’m also the chairperson of the Public Relations Society of America Philly Chapter Nonprofit Resource Committee and I recently won the commissioner’s award from GPFFL for community service. I want to be the go-to guy for gay causes. Another initiative that I’m proud of is that when I noticed that the Public Relations Society didn’t have a nonprofit committee to give back, I started one. Through that I can reach out to all my constituencies — gay organizations, senior groups, animal care, environmental groups, etc. We’re going to do a speed-dating kind of thing with PR specialists. People can come in and sit for 10 minutes with a social-media expert then move to a financial person, then a PR person. It’ll be a great opportunity for small businesses.
KA: I used to play softball and then I transitioned into flag football. The commissioner himself said that he was proud of me because it’s no secret that I sucked at softball and, even though no one taught me, I seem to be a pretty good center. I’m a big blocky wall and tough to get around. I also coordinate the community service for the league.
PGN: How did you meet your boyfriend, gymnast Dash Sears?
KA: We met at PIFA. [PGN] Photographer Scott Drake had invited him, and Dash came to watch everyone on the trapeze. My friend Rich was there and pointed to Dash across the lot and said, “Look, he’s the one for you.” I went over to him and Dash totally blew me off! I thought it was the end of the story but, a few months later, we saw each other on a dating website and started talking and I invited him for cupcakes. We’ve been together ever since. I think it was Ms. Goody’s cupcakes that did it.
PGN: What was an early sign you were gay?
KA: Probably music. I remember getting my first cassette tapes and I had Duran Duran, Lionel Richie and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” I used to dance around to that for hours.
PGN: Have you ever been gay-bashed, discriminated against?
KA: Yes. Back home in upstate New York, I once had a car follow me after leaving a bar, throw a brick at my window and try to run me off the entrance to the overpass.
PGN: Worst hairstyle?
KA: I used to play basketball and this was at the time when perms were really in. I got one right before a game one time and it was ridiculous. I didn’t realize how long it was going to take so I was late for the game. I walked on the court and everyone was staring at me. And what they don’t tell you was that it smells for days, so as I ran past people on the court, it was like, whew, there goes Kory!
PGN: What reality show would you be on?
KA: I think it would have to be called, “Real Housewives of South Philly.” It’s an adventure there everyday.
PGN: If you could go back in time to any era, what date would you choose?
KA: The Civil War era. It was such an interesting time in our country’s history that was so conflict ridden yet led us to such growth. I have read/watched “North and South” more times than I can mention.
PGN: Any tattoos?
KA: Yes! And most people would be surprised to find that out. I designed it myself and it’s the windmill from “Moulin Rouge” with the man in the moon and it says, “Truth, beauty, love, freedom.”
PGN: Who would you invite to a dinner party?
KA: Ooh, New York’s reigning cake diva Sylvia Weinstien, because I know in addition to the great desserts she’s a hoot and would be a lot of fun! And Nicki Minaj — she’s my new “it” person. She has just enough wackiness, but let’s be honest: She knows what she’s doing. She knows how to make the deal, who to partner with, how to get it done. I like her energy.
PGN: Something people don’t know about you?
KA: I like being around people with different stances than me. That fire-and-ice thing. I like being around people who challenge me. I generally find myself dating Republicans! The whole push and pull of it keeps things fresh.
PGN: Did you have a blanket or stuffed animal?
KA: I had a blankie, which I carried around everywhere and couldn’t live without as a child. It was pretty pastel colors!
PGN: Any pets?
KA: Yes, Buster Brown, he’s large and fun and probably more well-known than I am. I love animals and have been involved in animal causes as well. There was a big exposé of one of the shelters in the city a while back and I was part of getting that coverage. I was also a part of the people/pet partnership that was responsible for getting Philadelphia to be a no-kill city.
PGN: Your most interesting show-and-tell item?
KA: In college I took PR and Journalism: Censorship, and the teacher knew I was gay and she asked me to find her a gay adult video to show the students in class. It was very awkward and odd to have a teacher ask for that. And she was very specific in what she wanted!
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